Cori “Coco” Gauff wrapped up the third top-20 victory of her fledgling career on Wednesday, defeating second seed Aryna Sabalenka at the Top Seed Open in Lexington.
Gauff, the 16-year-old from the United States, overcame the world No. 11 from Belarus 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 48 minutes.
This was her second top-20 win of the season, having toppled defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in Melbourne in January, and she will go on to face Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals.
‘My mentality pushed me to win,’ Gauff said in her post-match press conference.
‘We were both playing good tennis. We both had up and downs in the match.
‘At the end of the day, it came down to a couple of points, a couple of close calls, that’s tennis in general.’
Coco Gauff top-20 wins
Oct 2019, Linz QF: Kiki Bertens (8) 7-6 6-4
Jan 2020, Aus Open R3: Naomi Osaka (4) 6-3 6-4
Aug 2020, Lexington R2: Aryna Sabalenka (11) 7-6 4-6 6-4
She added: ‘It’s pretty much impossible to play your best tennis for all three hours of a match.
‘Keeping the level high throughout was pretty tough, but that’s just tennis, playing in different conditions, and just starting back on tour.
‘I’m not too upset with how I played, I’m most proud of how I handled myself, staying composed on the pressure points.’
The main event on Thursday will be Serena and Venus Williams’ 31st career meeting, one Gauff is looking forward to.
‘I’m very excited,’ said the world No. 53. ‘I’m a tennis fan so I’ll definitely be watching if I’m not watching.
‘I was talking to my dad before the match, I think everyone was talking about it when the draw came out.
‘I think it’ll be exciting, they’re both playing good tennis and we haven’t seen either of them play in a long time.
‘This could be the last time they play, we don’t know. But we always say that and they’re playing each other again.’
Venus, 40, is proving to be one of the early success stories of the tour’s return.
On a run of five consecutive defeats – one of which came at the hands of Gauff at Melbourne Park – before the tour was halted, she has altered her serve during the extended break as a result of coronavirus.
The remodelled serve helped her snap that miserable losing run against a former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who was swept aside 6-3 6-2.
‘The serve is the most important shot in tennis,’ Williams said. ‘It has been a big motif in my whole career. When it is working, it gives me that extra advantage.
‘Tennis is a marathon. You basically play 10½ months a year, you get six weeks off and most of that is spent on the practice court. There is no time to make changes or rethink what you want to do.
‘I used this enforced off-season to evaluate what I really wanted. I had to make a few tweaks. I am quite happy with it. The more I play, the better I will get with it.’
Serena, who fought back from the brink against Bernarda Pera in the opening round, leads their head-to-head 18-12.
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